The Dennes Room

Spring 2010

Undergraduate courses

2  Individual Morality & Social Justice. Kolodny. MWF 3-4, 2060 Valley.

We will survey the basic questions of moral and political philosophy, as well as some classic attempts to answer them. We will ask, among other things: What is the morally right thing for me to do? Why should I do it? Is there a fact of the matter what it is, or does it just depend on my feelings or upbringing? Why should I do what the government tells me to? Why should I tolerate alien moral beliefs and practices? We may read, among others: Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Bentham, Mill, and Nietzsche.

3  Nature of Mind. Campbell. TuTh 2-3:30, 2060 Valley.

In this introductory course we will be looking at the relation of psychological states, such as desires or memories, to the physical world. There are five sections in the course: Foundations (Dualism, Behaviorism and Central-State Materialism), Functionalism, Consciousness, Intentionality, and Personal Identity. What is the mind? Are mental states, such as beliefs and desires, memories and hopes, characteristics of a non-physical substance, or are they configurations of the physical world? And if we think that mental states are entirely physical, should we think of them as relating to the ways in which a person tends to behave, or are they rather states of the person’s brain? Can a mental state be explained by its potential for causal relations with other mental states and with behavior? What is the relation between conscious experience and the brain? Is consciousness something over and above the ordinary biological functioning of the brain, or can it somehow be explained in biological terms? How can we explain our ability to think about the world? What is a person? These questions will be explored in the course of beginning to understand the nature of the mind.

11  Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. Buchak. MWF 1-2, 2 LeConte.

This course addresses basic questions in the philosophy of religion, primarily from the Western philosophical tradition. For example, does God exist? Should we believe in God? Are there such things as souls, and if so, how do they interact with the physical body? How should a just God punish us for our moral wrongdoing? Is morality based on God’s commands? The course will deal primarily with contemporary readings, and material will be arranged topically, rather than historically. The course is divided into four sections: arguments for and against the existence of God, epistemology, metaphysics, and morality.

12A  Introduction to Logic. Fitelson. TuTh 12:30-2, A1 Hearst Annex.

Logic is about reasoning, the difference between good and bad reasoning, and how to tell the difference between good and bad reasoning.

In this course, we will develop techniques for laying bare the structure of arguments (“reasonings”). This will enable us then to characterize, in some precise ways, the difference between good and bad reasoning, and to formulate rules of correct reasoning. These three things — a conception of structure of arguments, a precise characterization of good and bad arguments in terms of their structure, and a system of rules of correct reasoning — constitute a “system of logic.” We will actually consider several systems of logic. After all this, students should be in a better position to properly formulate and evaluate logical arguments.

The course will focus on deductively correct reasoning. That is, we will consider “good reasoning” to be reasoning in which the truth of the premises absolutely guarantees the truth of the conclusion (as in typical correct mathematical reasoning). This will briefly be put into perspective in relation to inductively good reasoning, in which the premises give significant, but not conclusive, support for a conclusion.

25B  Modern Philosophy. Ginsborg. MWF 11-12, 100 Lewis.

100  Philosophical Methods. Noë. F 2-4, 160 Dwinelle.

This course is restricted to Philosophy Majors.

110  Aesthetics. Noë. MWF 12-1, 220 Wheeler Hall.

116  Special Topics in Political Philosophy. Kolodny. MWF 2-3, 200 Wheeler.

This course will survey recent discussions of all or some of the following topics in political philosophy: affirmative action, abortion, free speech, toleration, multiculturalism, punishment, war, terrorism, taxation, money in politics, and democratic authority (that is, why, if at all, we should go along with the majority).

As taught this semester, Phil 116 satisfies the ethics requirement for the philosophy major.

125  Metaphysics. Lee. TuTh 12:30-2, 20 Barrows Hall.

This course will be a survey of some ongoing debates in metaphysics. Questions we will consider will include: Why does the universe exist? Is time’s passage an illusion? Is space a container and the world its contents? What is it for an object to exist at more than one time? Do other possible worlds exist?

128  Philosophy of Science. Roush. MWF 3-4, 220 Wheeler Hall.

This is a course in general philosophy of science. We study five topics of central importance where formal probabilistic approaches have brought progress. We ask: What makes something a scientific explanation?, What is required for observations to confirm (support) a hypothesis?, Is simplicity a guide to truth?, What is special about predicting novel data as opposed to accommodation of old data?, and Does the success of science give us reason to believe its theories are true? Topics covered include the problem of induction, some paradoxes of confirmation, and the advantages and disadvantages of Bayesianism. Prerequisite: one course in philosophy.

132  Philosophy of Mind. Searle. TuTh 9:30-11, 141 McCone/50 Birge starting 1/28.

The single most important question in philosophy and in intellectual life generally at the present time is this: How, if at all, can we reconcile a certain conception that we have of ourselves as conscious, free, rational, ethical, language using, social and political human beings in a world consisting entirely of mindless, meaningless physical particles? This course is directed to the most essential part of that question, the nature of the human mind. What is consciousness and how can it be caused by brain processes? How does it function causally in our behavior? How do we represent reality to ourselves in our mental processes? What is the nature of perception, memory, knowledge and action? Do we have free will? Does the existence of unconscious mental processes threaten our free will? Can cognitive science extend our understanding of ourselves as human beings? Are our brains really just digital computers? How exactly do our mental processes underlie society and our construction of social institutions, such as money, property, marriage and governments? This course will be concerned with these and other such fundamental questions in the foundations of philosophy, cognitive science and psychology.

140A  Intermediate Logic. Warren. MWF 12-1, 100 Wheeler.

This course has two parts. Part One will be more technical in nature. It will involve learning some of the key metalogical results for first-order logic (e.g., soundness, completeness, and compactness). The goal will be to get through Parts 1–3 of Hunter’s “Metalogic” textbook, which concludes with a famous metalogical paradox called “Skolem’s Paradox”. Part Two will be more philosophical in nature. It will involve investigating the historical impact (on 20th century analytic philosophy) of the metalogical results covered in Part One of the course. For instance, we will discuss the influence of “Skolem’s Paradox” on the philosophical development of W.V.O. Quine and Hilary Putnam.

Prerequisites. PHIL 12A, and willingness to engage both in mathematical and philosophical work.

Textbook. Hunter, “Metalogic,” UC Press 1971.

146  Philosophy of Mathematics. Mancosu. TuTh 9:30-11, 210 Wheeler.

The course is an introduction to the classics of philosophy of mathematics with emphasis on the debates on the foundations of mathematics. Topics to be covered: infinitist theorems in seventeenth century mathematics; the foundations of the Leibnizian differential calculus and Berkeley’s ‘Analyst’; Kant on pure intuition in arithmetic and geometry; the arithmetization of analysis (Bolzano, Dedekind); Frege’s logicism; the emergence of Cantorian set theory; Zermelo’s axiomatization of set theory; Hilbert’s program; Russell’s logicism; Brouwer’s intuitionism; Gödel’s incompleteness theorems. Prerequisites: Phil 12A (or equivalent) and another course in philosophy

161  Aristotle. Frede. MWF 10-11, 213 Wheeler.

The course provides a study of the main areas of Aristotle’s works in the fields of logic, meta-physics, natural science, psychology and ethics/politics. It will end with a brief overview of his poetics and rhetoric. Aristotle was not only the first philosopher who systematized the dif-ferent disciplines of philosophy, but also worked out their basic principles and method. The course’s main concern will therefore be a proper understanding of the interconnection between the principles, method and the results of Aristotle’s thought. Given the wide scope of his in-terests, the course will have to confine itself to a selective study of his works. Since these works are hard to access because of their terse style, the readings will focus in the main on an analysis of selected texts taken from (ed.) Richard McKeon, The Basic Works of Aristotle. Requirements: Three 5 page papers, one final paper.

176  Hume. Stroud. TuTh 11-12:30, 20 Barrows Hall.

A four unit course on the philosophy of David Hume (1711–1776), dealing as thoroughly as possible in the time available with many of the central issues of his major works. Students will be expected to read carefully, to discuss, and to write clearly and perceptively about those works and the problems they raise. No specific prerequisites; completion of at least Philosophy 25B is strongly advised. The richer one’s background in philosophy and the more one reads and thinks and discusses with others, the more one will get from the course. A large body of secondary literature and commentary can be helpful, but the emphasis throughout will be on the words and ideas of Hume himself.

Lectures will discuss primarily but not exclusively the following topics: Introduction-the science of human nature; Operations of the mind: the theory of impressions and ideas; The idea of causation and its source in experience; Belief and the sources of beliefs about the unobserved; The idea of necessary connection; The continued and distinct existence of objects; The self: the idea of personal identity; Paradox, sceptical despair and its cure; Action and its source in feeling or passion; Freedom and necessity; Morality and its sources: not derived from reason; Feeling, sentiment, and sympathy as the basis of morality; The origin and rationale of justice as an ‘artificial virtue’; The origin of government and the source of political obligation; The human point or goal of philosophy.

Course requirements: Three lectures per week; Participation in one discussion section per week; Four five-page papers on selected topics; Final examination.

183  Schopenhauer & Nietzsche. Kaiser. TuTh 12:30-2, 234 Moses Hall.

A systematic comparative study of the philosophy of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, with particular attention to the attitudes toward art and life of the two philosophers. Topics to be discussed include the nature of the will and the self; the problem of nihilism; the role of art, music, and aesthetic experience; and the psychology of value. Readings will include substantial excerpts from Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation and central texts by Nietzsche from the different phases of his philosophy. The course will be offered as a seminar with limited enrollment. Students will be required to participate actively in seminar discussions and to write a longer term paper.

Enrollment is limited to 15 participants and is by application only. Preference will be given to philosophy majors. You should send an email to the instructor at kuk@berkeley.edu with a brief description detailing your interest in this seminar and your background in philosophy (including a list of philosophy courses you have already taken) by November 9th. Those accepted will be notified by email shortly thereafter and will be given the course enrollment code that is needed to register for the course.

189  Special Topics in Recent European Philosophy. Dreyfus. TuTh 2-3:30, 213 Wheeler.

Philosophy 189: The Phenomenology of Action

This course will consider what the phenomenological tradition has contributed to the philosophical understanding of action. We will focus on the basic structures of everyday practical activity, various states of absorption, mastery, and breakdown, and the role and limitations of intentional content and practical reasoning. Readings mainly from Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, McDowell, and Dreyfus, with attention to related neo-Aristotelian and neo-Kantian views, time permitting. Prerequisite: one upper-division course in phenomenology or ethics, or permission of the instructor.

Graduate seminars

290-1  Graduate Seminar: Decision Theory: Preferences, Beliefs, and Desires. Buchak. W 4-6, 234 Moses Hall.

At its core, decision theory is a mathematical theory that relates preference, belief, and desire. This theory is used in a variety of ways: to guide action, to explain and predict behavior, to normatively assess choices, and to gain access to mental states. However, before it can be adequate for any of these purposes, its theoretical core needs to be expanded upon. In particular, the notions of preference, belief, and desire all need to be interpreted.
This seminar explores foundational issues in decision theory. In particular, we will focus on debates surrounding the analysis of preference, belief, and desire. Topics include the relationship between preference and behavior; the relationship between desire and reason; incommensurable values; substantive theories of utility; whether degrees of belief can be vague; and other issues. In addition to their importance to decision theory, these debates touch on issues in ethics, epistemology, and philosophy of mind.

Requirements: graduate status or permission of the instructor. No background in decision theory is required, but students should be comfortable with technical material.

290-2  Graduate Seminar: Recent Topics in Epistemology: Logic, Formal Methods, and Epistemology. Fitelson. Tu 2-4, 2523 Tolman Hall.

In this seminar, we will cover various “hot topics” in contemporary epistemology. The main focus/theme of the seminar will be on the (epistemic) normative status of logic and formal methods (e.g., the epistemic-normative role of deductive logic, and similar questions for various “inductive logical” frameworks). Other topics will include the nature of evidence (e.g., is evidence factive and can there be “knowledge from falsehood”?), coherence requirements (e.g., is coherence a requirement of epistemic rationality?), and full vs partial belief as a foundation for epistemology (e.g., “probabilism” and other non-traditional frameworks for epistemology, as opposed to traditional “full belief” approaches). We will have various guest presenters throughout the term, including Jim Joyce (Michigan), Jonathan Weisberg (Toronto), Matt Kotzen (UNC), and our own Roush, Kolodny, and Buchak.

290-3  Graduate Seminar: Consciousness. Lee. W 5-7, 211 Dwinelle.

This will be a seminar about consciousness. As well as being interested in first order questions about the nature of conscious experiences (we’ll focus on the implications and viability of the intentionalist program, and the relation between consciousness and accessibility) we will also be interested in two broad metatheoretical issues. First, to what extent is a systematic theory of the dependence of consciousness on the physical world possible? To address this, we’ll start with supervenience and the idea of experience-types having “neural correlates”, and then look at some different ways in which psychophysical dependence might (or might not) be more systematic than the existence of either of these relations alone implies. The second metatheoretical issue is this: is consciousness as intellectually and practically significant as is conventionally assumed, and (related to this) how many of the questions people typically ask about consciousness have determinate answers? We’ll explore a deflationary view that resembles the position that certain philosophers have taken in past about such concepts as personal identity and free will.

290-4  Graduate Seminar: Content without structure. MacFarlane/Yalcin. Tu 6-8, 234 Moses Hall.

Our standard ways of representing and attributing mental states and speech acts involves two components, which Frege called force and content. Believing that snow is white and imagining that snow is white are attitudes that share a content but differ in force; similarly, believing that snow is white and believing that mud is red share a force but differ in content. This approach gives us the efficiencies of a division of labor. A single account of content can be combined with accounts of various kinds of forces to yield accounts of various kinds of attitudes and speech acts.

We will focus on the question: What should we take contents to be, given their roles in our psychological and linguistic theories? The classic accounts given by Frege and Russell take contents to be structured complexes of senses (on the Fregean view) or objects and properties (on the Russellian view). We will be primarily interested, however, in unstructured conceptions, which take contents to be functions from circumstances, possibilities, or conditions to truth values.

We will begin by looking at Stalnaker’s development of such a conception in Inquiry. We will ask what motivates Stalnaker’s conception of content, as against structured alternatives, and what explanatory work it does. We will then look at several objections to unstructured conceptions:

  • The problem of logical omniscience. Intuitively, one need not believe all of the necessary consequences of one’s beliefs, but the unstructured conception seems to entail that one does. Relatedly, there are plausible psychological generalizations – for example, that if one believes a conjunction, one must believe both conjuncts, but need not believe all of the necessary consequences of the conjunction – that it seems cannot be stated in a framework that takes contents to be unstructured.

  • Aboutness. Intuitively, beliefs are individuated in part by what they are about (by their topics or subject matters), but it is not clear how a notion of aboutness can be defined that makes sense for unstructured propositions.

  • Frege’s puzzle. Intuitively, believing that Hesperus is visible is not the same as believing that Phosphorus is visible, but on an unstructured conception, the contents would seem to be the same.

  • De se attitudes. Intuitively, I could be omniscient, in the sense of knowing which world is actual, without knowing which object in that world I am. So standard unstructured views do not seem to provide resources for describing de se attitudes.

Although some of these objections have been taken to motivate structured theories of contents, we will be particularly interested in seeing how unstructured theories can evolve to meet them. In addition to classic treatments of these problems, we will look at some very recent (and in some cases, future) work on them.

290-5  Graduate Seminar: Probability as Constraint and Representation. Roush. Th 2-4, 234 Moses Hall.

This is a course about the use of probability in epistemology. Probability imports assumptions about and imposes constraints on any subject matter you use it to describe. Some of these constraints are well-known, but their implications are not always known or observed. In others it is an open question how much leeway probability allows. We discuss the fate of holism, foundationalism, introspective access, self-knowledge, and objects of belief under a probabilistic description. We consider the consequences of the globality of the P function and of extreme probabilities. Cases that are illuminating include the preface “paradox,” evidential support, re-calibration, justified belief, and the epistemology of logic. We discuss artifacts of representation and how to think about idealization in philosophy.

290-6  Graduate Seminar: Perception, Mind and Language. Searle. Tu 2-4, 234 Moses Hall.

In this course, we will discuss some of the latest work in the Philosophy of Mind and the Philosophy of Perception. We will also Fodor’s attempt to revive the language of mind hypothesis along with recent attacks on the Innateness Hypothesis. Given the current scene, we also need to discuss disjunctivism. Requirements: graduate status or permission of the instructor. Students enrolled for credit must write a term paper.

290-7  Graduate Seminar: Concepts, Attitudes, and the Unity of Judgement. Stroud. Tu 4-6, 234 Moses Hall.

A wide-ranging seminar on the conditions of thought and of the attribution of attitudes.

Some questions to be considered are: What is involved in possessing a concept by which you can think about something? What does it take to have a thought that is true or false? What is the relation between having a concept and having a capacity for judgement? What is the role or significance of predication? Can believing and other ‘propositional’ attitudes involving predication be understood as a person’s standing in a certain relation to certain objects? If so, what relation? What objects? If not, how is belief and the attribution of ‘propositional’ attitudes to others to be understood? What metaphysical or epistemological consequences, if any, can be drawn from fulfillment of the necessary conditions of thought and of the attribution of attitudes?

Readings from Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Geach, Quine, Evans, Strawson, Davidson and others, with additional secondary material.

Those attending will be expected to contribute to the discussion.

290-8  Graduate Seminar: Practical Knowledge: Recent Work on Agency and Action. Wallace. M 2-4, 234 Moses Hall.

There has recently been a striking resurgence of interest in the approaches of Anscombe and Aristotle to issues of agency, action, and practical norms. In this seminar we will look at some recent work in this vein. A central issue will be the explanation of what Anscombe called practical knowledge: our non-observational knowledge of what we are doing when we act. Other topics will include the character of action as a (teleological) process; the relation of intentions to action; the structure of practical justification; and the source of the norms to which action is answerable. We will start by reading Michael Thompson’s Life and Action, and then move on to look at work by Sebastian Rödl, Kieran Setiya, David Velleman, Richard Moran, Doug Lavin (among others). Participants are strongly encouraged to (re-)read Anscombe’s Intention before the seminar begins.

290-9  Graduate Seminar: Leibniz’s Metaphysics. Warren. F 4-6, 234 Moses Hall.

In the first part of this seminar (approximately 6 weeks) we will examine the Discourse on Metaphysics, Leibniz’s first systematic presentation of his mature metaphysical picture. Central topics covered in this work include: the nature of substance, the containment theory of truth, the harmony between substances, necessary and contingent truth, efficient causes and teleology, activity and passivity, force and dynamical physics, the relation of mind and body. As we make our way through the Discourse, we will supplement it by further readings from related works. In the second part of the seminar (approximately 8 weeks) we will look at Leibniz’s early work, with an eye to understanding the stages through which his metaphysical views progressed and tracing the origins of the views presented in the Discourse. In this second part we will take as a guide Christia Mercer’s book, Leibniz’s Metaphysics: Its Origin and Development .

290-10  Collaborative Research Seminar: Humanisitic and Empirical Studies in Moral Psychology. Wallace. W 4-6, Townsend Center.

Humanistic and Empirical Research in Moral Psychology (cross listed in Law, Philosophy, and Psychology)

Staff: Kathryn Abrams (Law), Alison Gopnik (Psychology), Christopher Kutz (Law/JSP), Anthony Long (Classics), Robert MacCoun (Law/JSP and Public Policy), and Jay Wallace (Philosophy)

This interdisciplinary seminar, co-taught by five faculty, is sponsored by the Townsend Center for the Humanities. Its aim is to draw together Berkeley faculty and graduate students studying the “moral emotions” – pride, shame, guilt, and anger – as well as related concepts and motivations, such as attributions of responsibility, altruism, self-interest, virtue, and character. These concepts and emotions lie not only at the heart of moral and political philosophy, but also psychology, education, sociology, and economics. Our seminar will pursue these subjects by looking at the intersection of research within these different disciplines, with each session introduced by one or more of the faculty conveners. Graduate student participants will share responsibility for presenting some material, and will be expected to collaborate across disciplinary lines for their seminar projects. We also expect campus and off-campus visitors to contribute to the meetings and possible special sessions.

The seminar will meet in the Geballe Room of the Townsend Center on Wednesdays, 4-6pm. Graduate students from any university department are invited to apply, but space is limited, and admission will require the approval of the instructors. Applicants should send a note of interest and an explanation of their relevant scholarly background to Robert MacCoun, maccoun@law.berkeley.edu, by December 15th, with the Subject line header “MORAL PSYCHOLOGY SEMINAR.”

295  Dissertation Seminar. Kolodny. TBA, TBA.